Leadership debate on, Congress hits out at Shashi Tharoor, Sandeep Dikshit

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Congress leaders Sanjay Nirupam and Shashi Tharoor. The two leaders Thursday called for elections to pick a party president. (Express File Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)

Senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor Thursday renewed his call for leadership elections in the Congress, a day after former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit’s son and ex-MP Sandeep Dikshit argued that the biggest challenge faced by the party is the “leadership question” and accused senior leaders of failing to find a new president because they are “scared who will bell the cat”.

Dikshit and Tharoor were rebuffed by the party even as a senior leader asserted that Rahul Gandhi, who had stepped down as Congress president following the party’s Lok Sabha election defeat, is set to return to the helm “very soon”. “There is no other leader to lead the party at this juncture... no other leader to fight the BJP... we will be expediting his return,” the leader said without giving a time frame.

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While the Congress constitution says that 12 of the 23 members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) will be elected by AICC delegates, the last time elections to the CWC were held was more than two decades ago in 1997 when Sitaram Kesri was the party president. Sonia Gandhi, who became Congress president in 1998, always nominated the CWC members — a practice many in the party believe promoted a culture of patronage.

“What Sandeep Dikshit said openly is what dozens of party leaders across the country are saying privately, including many with responsible positions. I renew my appeal to CWC to hold leadership elections ...” Tharoor said.

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Dikshit, in an interview to The Indian Express, had slammed senior leaders for not electing a new leader after Rahul stepped down and argued that there were others capable of leading the party.

Tharoor called for elections for the 12 elected seats in the CWC as well as for the party presidency.

The party, meanwhile, criticised both Dikshit and Tharoor. “It was the CWC which elected the Congress president. If anybody has any illusions, they should read the resolution of the CWC...” Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala told reporters.

“My request to all my colleagues is that...instead of pontificating to the whole country...first they take advantage of their work in their respective constituencies.”